The only thing we need to know about the Braves super-utility guy Omar Infante, is how to clone him. Infante started at least three games at second base, shortstop, third base, left field, center field, and right field. The importance of Infante can also be seen by knowing who replaced him when he was injured -- Diory Hernandez. Here is a comparison of their 2009 stats:
|2009 - Omar Infante||70||203||24||62||9||1||2||27||19||28||2||0||.305||.361||.389|
|2009 - Diory Hernandez||33||85||6||12||3||0||1||6||6||22||0||1||.141||.198||.212|
It's not even close. Of course, Diory was a rookie, so perhaps it's unfair to him to hold him to the same standards as a veteran like Infante, but the difference in their value to the team is nothing to shy away from -- Hernandez was a huge drop-off from Infante.
Amazingly some of Omar's comps at Baseball-Reference show that his stats are similar to several everyday players -- guys like Shawon Dunston, Jack Wilson, and Orlando Cabrera. Regardless of what you think of those players, they are or were everyday players, so to have our utility man compared statistically to those guys further underscores his value.
Infante is not a power threat, but he did improve a weak part of his game this year which may make him even more valuable going forward -- his on-base percentage. He posted the highest OBP of his career in 2009, while posting the highest walk percentage and lowest strikeout percentage of his 8-year career. When you look at his strikeouts and walks they are moving in the right direction the last four years:
This is a sign of an improving hitter, and one who is improving while not being an everyday player. We've got Infante under contract for one more year at $2.225 million, and we've got a team option on him for 2011 at only $2.5 million. He does have some performance bonuses which would allow him to earn up to $3 million in 2010 and $3.5 in 2011, but even if he meets all of those, that's a bargain for as good of a utility player as he can be. If we indeed are getting him on the upswing in his career number -- and keep in mind that he'll only be 28-year old next year -- then he may prove to be even more valuable in the future.
His absence from the lineup during the middle months of the season was a big blow to the team, but the injury was not his fault -- he was hit by a pitch which broke a bone in his hand. If the season-threatening injuries can stay away from Omar he should be a strong and valuable part of our team for years to come. His ability to spell any player in the outfield or infield, and maintain a high level of offensive production while doing so is part of what will help make Atlanta playoff contenders in 2010 and beyond.